Cory may yet save her son from jail over DAP

by Raïssa Robles

Posted at Jul 08 2014 11:18 PM | Updated as of Jul 10 2014 02:12 AM

Could the Supreme Court be wrong?

Are President Benigno Aquino's actions about the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) constitutional after all?

I ask these questions because I’m looking over something Aquino’s mother, President Cory, signed in 1987.

And former Senator Joker Arroyo knows about it. Or at least he should – because he co-signed it.

What I’m talking about is a 401-page compilation of “rules of governance” that includes an extensive list of presidential powers. It’s called the Administrative Code and it was drawn up in 1987.

From the way I look at it, what PNoy did with DAP IS constitutional because he used the Administrative Code, which the Constitution allows.

Let me explain. Pull up a chair.

This piece took me days to write. When I began, I originally titled it “Butch Abad must be punished”.

Because, to me, Budget Secretary Abad clearly violated the Constitution. How could he have done such an idiotic thing? How could he, a lawyer, have the temerity to violate the Constitution, risking everything the Aquino presidency had worked so hard for? It seemed incomprehensible.

Fourteen Justices of the Supreme Court ruled that the P144.4 billion Development Acceleration Program (DAP) that Abad had put together from various “savings” was partly unconstitutional. The Justices pointed to at least two DAP projects that were in clear violation of Section 25 (5), Article VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. This section categorically states that the President, Senate President, House Speaker and Supreme Court Chief Justice can only “augment” the budget “for their respective offices.”

The key word here is the adjective “respective.” It allows the President, Senate President, House Speaker and Supreme Court Chief Justice to increase their budgets provided they do this in their own turf. In other words, no “cross border” transfers are allowed by the Constitution, all 14 Justices said.

What Abad had done, with the written approval of President Benigno Aquino,was to transfer funds he had pulled out from various agencies and slow-moving projects, and then put them together in something he called the DAP .

Abad told the Court that such cross-border transfers were done upon the request of a co-equal branch (through Speaker Feliciano Belmonte for P143.7 million to finish an e-library) and of an independent body (the Commission on Audit for P250 million to fund its IT Infrastructure program and hired more “litigation experts”).

At the very least, Abad could be charged with technical malversation. “Technical”, because unlike in the case of the pork senators, this is not not a case of colossal theft of the people’s money. In fact, ironically, Abad was trying to get more bang for the people’s buck.

But as Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio pointed out in his separate concurring opinion, “the road to unconstitutionality is often paved with ostensibly good intentions.”

The Revised Penal Code punishes government officials “who shall apply any public fund or property under his administration to any public use other than that for which such fund or property where appropriated.” Even if the officials did not steal any of that money. It’s called technical malversation. (Article 220, Chapter 4, Book II, Title 7, Revised Penal Code).

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.